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Length of Nominals

Noun phrases with several modifiers have been identified as potential sources of difficulty in test items (Spanos, Rhodes, Dale & Crandall, 1988). Long compound nominals may contain more semantic elements and may be more syntactically ambiguous; therefore, a reader’s comprehension of a text may be impaired or delayed by problems in interpreting them. Romance languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, use fewer compound nominals than the English language. Consequently, students whose first language is a Romance language may have difficulty interpreting long compound nominals used in the English language (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1983).

Complex Question Phrases

Long question phrases occur with lower frequency than short question phrases, and low- frequency expressions are in general harder to read and understand (Adams, 1990).

Comparative Structures

Comparative constructions have been identified as potential sources of difficulty for nonnative speakers (Jones, 1982; Spanos et al., 1988) and for speakers of nonmainstream dialects (Orr, 1987; see also Baugh, 1988).

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